12 years, 177 episodes and a lot of zombies spoiled later, The Walking Dead has come to an end, but not quite. In theory, the main series of the franchise based on the comics by Robert Kirkman has indeed ended its journey on TV, but the plot is far from completion, with at least three derivatives of the main cast already confirmed. And it is precisely because of the lack of a sense of closure and tension that the final season fails, falling short of bombastic finales even from TWD itself.
Divided into three parts and available in the Brazilian catalog of Star+, the 11th year adapted the Commonwealth arc, the ultimate plot of the story also in the comics. Daryl (Norman Reedus), Carol (Melissa McBride), Maggie (Lauren Cohan) and more encounter the utopian vision of a huge community along the lines of the world before the zombie apocalypse. By utopian they mean electricity, security, and all the comforts lost at the end of the world. But they discover that not all that glitters is gold, and this can even be said in a comment on the overall plot of the season itself.
It’s just that, while visually interesting and introducing a new dynamic to the already established groups, the arc is executed in the beaten-down manner of virtually every previous story in the series. Minus on the strength of truly memorable villains, such as Jeffrey Dean Morgan’s now redeemed Negan.
Commonwealth bosses Pamela Milton (Laila Robins) and Lance Hornsby (Josh Hamilton) never convince as real threats, and even the attempt to establish them as cold and calculating, in reflection to the new community, falls flat. And it’s all because of a long-standing problem: The Walking Dead can’t hold serious issues
Broadly speaking, the series’ motto has always been how society behaves in extreme situations, and how humans can sometimes be worse than the undead creatures they fight. But such discussions have always been hampered by the simplistic script, boiled down to a cliché quilt of “We can’t be like them” and the like. If basic questions like these were already dealt with in a lame way, things get more complicated when the screenwriters attempt a deeper social critique.
Behind the appearance of a land of new opportunities, the Commonwealth is run in a clear social pyramid scheme, and tries to mirror reality with richer rich and poorer poor under the illusion that everything is for the greater good. But the possibility of really interesting debates is diluted in dialogues lacking any depth, and even with the protagonists becoming almost caricatures. Good actors, McBride, Reedus, Jeffrey Dean Morgan and company even try to hold the ball. But no one can work a miracle.
Also, don’t expect any sense of urgency or tension, even though this is the final season of a series that featured the impending fear of disaster and death as its lure. Because of AMC’s inexplicable marketing decision, there isn’t a single moment when we fear for the fate of the protagonists. The mismatch between the scriptwriters and the network bosses is evident when certain situations could even generate impact, if we didn’t know months before the season even premiered that the characters would return for solo stories.
Interestingly, analyzed in isolation, disregarding the responsibility of closing the entire 12-year plot, the season still has moments of technical competence. The action sequences remain inventive, and the characters we have followed for the better part of a decade remain interesting.
The gallery of new faces offers interesting opportunities that could bear good fruit, such as the strongman Mercer. With a brilliant performance by Michael James Shaw (Avengers: Infinity War), the military man is one of the only ones from the Commonwealth who can get past the internal conflict of discovering that what he believes to be right may be corrupted at the deepest foundations.
Veterans like the aforementioned Reedus, McBride, and the likes of Eugene (Josh McDermitt), Aaron (Ross Marquand), Ezekiel (Khary Payton), and little Judith (Cailey Fleming) retain their charisma, but end up hampered by a plot that separates them for much of the episodes.
An unsuspecting person would not be reprimanded for imagining that the decision to turn the season into the series finale was made with the production streetcar already in motion. The rush to resolve loose ends is evident in the final chapters of the series, culminating with a final episode that, despite here and there offering golden moments for those who have been following the journey for 12 years (don’t worry, we won’t give spoilers), boils down to 1 hour and four minutes of a huge feeling of ‘Is that it?’
The Walking Dead now finds itself in the curious position of being able to offer three new ‘endings’ to its plot, with those derived from Negan and Maggie, from Daryl Dixon, and from Rick (Andrew Lincoln) and Michonne (Danai Gurira). We hope that the franchise will take back the reins of its own history, and offer an ending (this time for real) respectful to its legacy, and to the fans who follow the plot until today.
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